shipping pre-built cabinets vs. build-on-site

Martin Hannigan martin at
Mon Apr 6 16:09:56 CDT 2009

On Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 2:46 PM, Joe Abley <jabley at> wrote:

> Hi all,
> Anybody here have experience shipping pre-built cabinets, with ~20U of
> routers and servers installed, connected and tested, to remote sites for
> deployment?

I've done this in the past and most recently evaluated it as an option to
reduce remote hands requirements for future Icelandic data centers. I prefer
the on-site build. There are a lot of gotchas. For example, cabinet heights.
Floor loading. Max ceiling height, cable delivery systems, power delivery
preferences, cabinet style, etc.  In most cabinet inventory facilities the
operators ask you to utilize their cabinets which, for some,  are turned to
cooling and service delivery requirements. Entrance doorways are typically
wide, but a 7" cabinet on wheels will usually have to come in on it's side
if it's not built or already installed inside the room. Pre-fab cabinets may
have to be tipped, twisted, or mangled to get through a door. Depending upon
how your gear is mounted internally, you could see your backplanes
experience stresses that will not be obviously detectable "initially" as a
result of that jousting.

Pre fab for 20U in your own cabinet is also doubling the cost of your
install in a facility that would sell you 20U of cabinet. That doesn't leave
you much room for growth, but if you do your agreements in a manner that
allows you to expand and pay as you grow, it may be worth it not to pre fab
and eat all 40U in costs. These days, with the limited power available in
facilities, you may only get 20U and your growth sideways will require
additional cabinets anyhow so growing into your cabinet may not be possible.

The idea is to increase the consistency of the deployments by having them
> all built in one place by the same set of people, and to reduce the amount
> of time required by warm bodies on-site (bodies that would otherwise have to
> receive individual components and install/cable them).
> We've located a few vendors who sell shock-tolerant cabinets, but they're
> expensive and seem to me to be aimed at people who need to ship a set of
> equipment frequently (e.g. to support movie shoots, outside broadcasts,
> etc), rather than people who want to ship just once.
> The destination in all cases would be a commercial, modern data centre. The
> equipment would be shipped from LA.
> Do I even need to spend time wondering about shock-tolerant cabinets, or
> should I instead be concentrating on finding the right company to wrap the
> cabinets for shipping, and to do the shipping itself?

I wasn't able to show a major capex or opex cost savings by pre-fabricating.
You are either going to increase the workload of your existing people or
hire more to buy the obvious convenience. Either way, probably more
expensive for 20U that it may be worth.

1. as-builts designated by the RU
2. physical layer wiring diagram
3. cable run list (optical, fiber, connector type, pots)
4. Bill of materials down to the rack mount kit screws
5. cut view, detailing cabinet details _from the datacenter_.

I think that you'll find that you can improve your install experience by
(possibly) improving your documentation and standards requirements.



Martin Hannigan                               martin at
p: +16178216079
Power, Network, and Costs Consulting for Iceland Datacenters and Occupants

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